Teenager’s appeal after house blaze

Teenager’s appeal after house blaze

9 May 2018

A BIG-HEARTED Downpatrick teenager has launched a fundraising appeal in aid of her elderly neighbour whose bungalow was badly damaged in a weekend arson attack.

Sophie McCarthy is raising money to help John Brown whose Ballymote Walk home was engulfed in a ferocious 

blaze last Friday evening after a fire was deliberately started at a nearby fence.

Mr Brown’s motobility scooter was 

destroyed in the incident which has been widely condemned, with the arson attack leaving some of his neighbours at the Model Farm estate feeling vulnerable.

Thirteen year-old Sophie said she wanted to help her neighbour and send out a message that not all young people in the Model Farm and Flying Horse areas were up to no good.

The Assumption Grammar School student hopes to raise enough money to buy Mr Brown a new scooter.

She revealed that her family has been contacted by a number of other people who want to help, including a painter offering to redecorate the pensioner’s home.

“No one wants to see elderly people being targeted and left feeling frightened,” Sophie said. “This is not very nice and these people should be left alone in peace. Their homes should not be targeted by anyone.

“Some elderly residents are living in fear of their homes being targeted and this is very sad. Some are even afraid to go outside and this is not how it should be.”

Sophie said a number of pensioners who live at Ballymote Walk suffered from a range of disabilities, including one who was confined to a wheelchair.

“I hope my appeal demonstrates that not all young people at this part of Downpatrick are unruly and do not care about their neighbours,” she continued.

“It is unfair to tar us all with the same brush. When I heard what happened to John I wanted to help and have made a number of posters and collection boxes which have been placed in a number of businesses.

“I know John lost his mobility scooter and would like to be able to raise money to replace it. If there are any businesses willing to help me achieve this goal it would be great. My aim is to run the appeal for a few months.”

The teenager said she understood Mr Brown’s home was broken into last year and that “he has been through enough.”

Sophie said she was “heartened” that several people have already come forward with offers of help after seeing news of her fundraising appeal online.

“My family is receiving messages from people asking what they can do to help and that is encouraging,” she said.

Collection boxes have been placed at Charlie’s shop at the Flying Horse estate, Haircut 2000 at St Patrick’s Avenue and Sweets and Treats in Market Street. One person has also made a financial donation.

“The support to date highlights people’s community spirit and, by working together, we will hopefully be able to help John.”

Sophie says all support is welcome and she plans to recognise everyone who is supporting her fundraiser on her Facebook page. People can also contact her or her dad, Peter, via social media if they are willing to help.

The teenager added: “I hope I can raise as much as I can to show John that people do care and are really upset about what happened last weekend. While it is still early days, I am encouraged by the support to date. It would be great if we can secure a new mobility scooter for him.”

Sophie’s parents, Peter and Bronagh, say they are very proud their daughter decided to help the pensioner and that what she is doing shows that not all young people at a part of Downpatrick that has made headlines for the wrong reasons are bad.